Stress is actually different things to different people….it is a result of our individual experiences. However, there is no reason why you cannot learn some simple, basic techniques for deflecting it.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes of stress:
Usually, you become stressed due to having to face something new, as we naturally fear the unknown. You can also become worried if you are going to have to deal with something that is unpredictable.Another source of possible stress can come from a threat to your ego, especially if it is about your competence and this is happening in front of your colleagues. Finally, some of you may become unduly uncomfortable when you feel you have little or no control over a situation.
Now here are some simple de-stressors you can try:
- Breathe in deeply by extending your diaphragm fully, then breathe out slowly. Do it about 15-20 times. When we are stressed we often breathe in a shallow manner, thereby reducing the oxygen to our brains. This impedes rational thought and our problem-solving abilities. Once you increase the oxygen again, you will be able to think more clearly and therefore deal more effectively with the situation. Besides it usually puts the stress response on hold.
- Sing….this also increases your abdominal breathing (if you do it well) and again you will slow down your stress response and begin to feel better and more in control.
- Exercise changes your brain chemistry by releasing more endorphins, the feel-good, happy chemicals, and also uses the energy generated by the stress response in a physical manner. These chemicals also can enhance your immune system helping you to stave off infections more effectively. This means that fit people are generally healthier and happier.
- Laughter also releases those feel-good chemicals so reduces the effects of the stress response and enhances your immune system at the same time. Besides, life is just too short not to have fun!
- Read, according to a study at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, 6 minutes of reading is sufficient to reduce stress levels by 68%. That is even better than listening to music, which reduces it by 61% or by having a cup of tea which reduces it by 54%.
- Meditation is another great stress reducer. A study at Boston University, University of Montreal and Laval University, concluded that meditation, when done regularly, can cut stress levels by 40%.
Stress is a natural part of your life…..it will occur. In other words, no one’s life is a long straight road, rather it will have curves, hills, valleys, washouts and floods, so if we have strategies to deal with those challenges and obstacles we will be happier and more successful in all areas of our lives. It is more important how we deal with it. In fact, not all stress is bad. Short term stress can actually propel human beings to higher levels of achievement because the burst of adrenalin can actually provide us with high energy, clarity, and endurance for brief periods of time.
It is the long term stressors that are most harmful, particularly when you do nothing to reduce the side effects. Long term stress can result in irreversible physiological damage to your organ systems, your memory, your cognitive abilities, your sleep habits, your weight, and your communication skills. It can cause you to “awfulize” and catastrophize situations as you have lost the ability to perceive issues as they truly are. It can lower performance levels at work and cause more mistakes. This can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem. Many employees who are forced to take a stress leave, often come back with lowered performance levels, more frailty and the high chance that they will require another leave. Some never return to work.
Stress has been around from the beginning of time however it has been only in more recent times that we have begun to realize just how devastating it can be if not dealt with in an effective manner….and that will vary from person to person.
So, if you have been feeling anxious, irritable, unhappy, etc. or have noticed behavioural changes in a family member or colleague, try to seek help for yourself or encourage the other person to seek it for themselves before the resultant problems become irreversible.
Life is too short not be enjoying it….so face your challenges, use them as opportunities to learn, but do not dwell on them! Positive people are happier and healthier and again, we should be finding ways to enjoy our lives not destroying them.